Colombia

COLOMBIA PUBLIC WITNESS REFLECTION: Memory is resistance

CPTnet
10 February 2017
COLOMBIA PUBLIC WITNESS REFLECTION: Memory is resistance

 by Katherine Crosby

 

“In spite of all the persecution, today we are still here.”

                      ~ A Social Leader in Colombia

 

Our team arrived in Bogotá and has set up with cameras, hats, banners, drums, and megaphone. We begin our march toward the plaza at the center of the city. I am holding one side of a banner that reaches from above my head down to the ground; it stretches across about three feet to my companion holding the other side. I pause to examine the Colombia shaped black silhouette painted across the fabric. Inside of the map are several white dots of varying sizes, each placed in a different one of Colombia’s departments or provinces. The bold, black number on each dot represents how many social leaders and human rights defenders have been killed in each department since the beginning of 2016: 123 in total.

CPTers stand with a banner: Silencio es violencia

For the past three weeks, our group has been in Colombia as trainees with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).

Prayers for Peacemakers, 8 February 2017

Prayers for Peacemakers, 8 February 2017

Today, let us celebrate the successful accomplishment of the intensive month-long training for peacemakers that has just ended in Fusagasugá, Colombia. Let us give thanks for the nine wonderful peacemakers from Colombia, Argentina, India, Poland, Australia, Canada and United States who are joining Christian Peacemaker Teams in our worldwide mission to "build partnerships that transform violence and oppression."

Please pray for God's guidance for the new members of the CPT Corps as they discern new commitments with various CPT projects and navigate personal and organizational situations.

Graduates of the CPT training Colombia 2017

Graduates of the CPT training, Colombia 2017

COLOMBIA: Justice Denied

CPTnet

6 February 2017

COLOMBIA: Justice Denied 

by Kody Hersh 

Mid-January, 2017. I am about two weeks into a month-long stint as a reservist with the CPT Colombia team. I’ve visited the rural community of Guayabo, where campesino farmers and their families and communities have been embroiled in an extensive land claim struggle with the son of a former landowner. Though the actions of the people of Guayabo in defense of their land have been legal and nonviolent, local officials, who have sided with the claimant, Rodrigo Lopez Henao, throughout the process, issued arrest warrants several months ago for four community leaders. One, Álvaro García, was arrested at home at the crack of dawn. After going into hiding for six months, seeking legal help, and building a defense, the remaining three community leaders turned themselves in to the authorities. Most accusations against them were immediately dropped for lack of evidence, and they were allowed to return home until the case is resolved– but Álvaro has been held for eight months now, awaiting charges and a hearing at which his lawyers can petition for his release.

The CPT team has been visiting Álvaro regularly in jail in Barrancabermeja, which is several hours by boat from his family and community, and attending hearings in his case. I join my CPT teammate at a hearing in which Álvaro’s lawyers hope to conclude opening arguments and move closer to the point at which they can request his release. We wait an hour in a cramped reception area: Álvaro, two prison guards, several family and community members, lawyers from a Colombian human rights collective, my teammate and I. Álvaro reaches out with cuffed hands to shake mine when we are introduced. He sings the group a song he’s written in jail about the dignity of campesino work and importance of land justice. Finally the judge calls Álvaro, his guards, and the lawyers into another room. 

My teammate and I wait outside with Álvaro’s friends and family for about two hours, looking out over the city and the Magdalena River from the fourth floor balcony of the court building. Finally, Álvaro emerges, and the guards lead him back out of the building, to return to jail. His main lawyer joins our small group, shakes her head, and explains that completion of that day’s hearing has been postponed two weeks. She asked to continue the hearing within a few days; the judge denied the request.

Justice too long delayed… 

El Guayabo leader

El Guayabo leader, Eric Payares talks to a CPT delegation about their nonviolent resistance.(Caldwell Manners/CPT)

Prayers for Peacemakers. 26 January 2017

Prayers for Peacemakers. 26 January 2017

Please pray for kak Awat Hassan and his family who CPT Iraqi Kurdistan accompanies day and night after members of the security forces have threatened to kill him. Kak Awat Hassan is a teacher and one of the main organizers of a strike that thousands of teachers have carried on since September 2016. They call on the ruling parties to deal with corruption and to resume payments of the teachers' and other employees' full salaries.

Please pray for the four members of CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team who experience exhaustion from the high stress situation as they engage in the full time accompaniment and advocacy work for safety of kak Awat and his family.

Please remember in your prayers the large numbers of civil rights activists, social leaders and journalists who are at high risk of detention, beatings, kidnappings or assassinations in Iraqi Kurdistan, Colombia and around the world.

 

Kak Awat Hassan drinks tea and relfects on death threats against him

Prayers for Peacemakers. 18 January 2017

Prayers for Peacemakers. 18 January 2017

Many of us might be contemplating about the difficult days that are about to come. Wars keep on raging around the world and powerful discriminatory systems are on the rise. Presidents and political leaders speak of preparations for new wars on different religions, sects, ethnicities, races and nationalities. 

Spiritual teachings illustrate that our past actions affect us, either positively or negatively, and that our present actions will affect us in the future. It is easy to waste time on blaming one person or another for what happens around us, instead of focusing on our present actions that might shape our future differently. Let’s all work together as one global community to resist nonviolently against all oppressive systems around the world and pray for each other on our long journey towards peace and justice. 

The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
and the rod of his fury will fail.

(Proverbs 22: 7-8)

For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace.

(James 3: 16-18)

Poster No more war

Artist: Beatriz Aurora. No to War. Another world is possible. A world where all worlds fit.

Prayers for Peacemakers. 4 January 2017

Prayers for Peacemakers. 4 January 2017

In tradition of the Muiscas, the indigenous people who lived in what is now Bogota, Colombia, one of the most important rituals was carried out by the wise of the community. The wise person sat on a small bench in order to reconnect with the earth and thus reflect on one's own and their community's past, present and future. 

In our daily lives - even though it seems incredible - there are few moments in which we can sit still and reflect.

Today, we would like to invite you to halt your activities for a moment and reflect on:

- things that we could have done better in the past year,

- privileges that we have and ways to walk in solidarity with those who do not share the same,

- activities we can do to support peace initiatives around the world,

- and how to be agents of transformation of violence and oppression in our own communities.

Let's pray that this year of 2017 will grow new hopes for a better world.

Anthropomorphic figure from

Picture from Museo del Oro, Banco de la República.

Prayers for Peacemakers. 29 December 2016


Prayers for Peacemakers. 29 December 2016

2016 has been a difficult year. Stories about the plight of refugees in the Mediterranean sea, the peace process in Colombia, killings of social leaders and farmers, protests to defend water resources, political surprises that seek to eliminate rights of millions of people, intensifying abuses in Hebron, new disappearances in the borderlands between Mexico and the USA, ongoing wars around the world, increasing islamophobia, escalating abuse of migrants, violence against women and natural disasters that have left thousands of people homeless… The list seems endless.

However, even in all this darkness, we can always find a ray of light. It reminds us that we must not lose faith. The light, which the oppression tries hard to extinguish, lives and grows with the commitment and dedication of us all.

In this last week of 2016, let us pray for an amplification of the light in the coming year. The light that lives and shines both inside each one of us and in the world around us. Let's pray for this light to grow stronger and multiply.

Let us pray for CPT members in Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, Turtle Island, Greece, our partners and all the people struggling for peace around the world. Let's pray together for those who work to transform all forms of violence and oppression.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Baby watching TV

Photo credit: Caldwell Manners (El Garzal, Sur de Bolivar)

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: I love God


CPTnet
18 December 2016
COLOMBIA REFLECTION: I love God.

by Jhon Henry

There is nothing more liberating than saying I love God, because by God’s love I am able to understand the struggles of my sisters and brothers, through God’s love it is possible to understand that my commitment as a Christian is to transform the world into a more just place where all can have a place in which to live, a just world for me, for you, for us, for all.

Man from Las Pavas collects firewood

A man from Las Pavas collects firewood for community members who take nightly shifts to guard their crops from attacks by palm oil company, Aportes San Isidro’s private security. (Caldwell Manners/CPT)


Prayers for Peacemakers, November 16, 2016

 

Give thanks that campesino land struggle leaders of El Guayabo and Bella Union are now free pending trial.  Eric Payares, Santos Peña and Jhon Freddy have been in hiding because of false charges leveled against them by a large landowner Rodrigo Lopez Henao. Pray for Alvaro Garcia, who remains in jail, and his family.  Pray that the Holy one will soften Lopez Henao’s heart and bend it toward justice.  Pray also that the new peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC will be signed in early December, so that rural communities like El Guayabo and Bella Union, which have born the brunt of the Colombian civil war's violence, may at last find some sort of peace with justice.

*Epixel for Peacemakers  November 20, 2016
Erik Payares, Santos Peña and Jhon Fredy Ortega embrace their family in celebration outside the court in Barrancabermeja. (CPT/Caldwell Manners)
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.
Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.
Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.
I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD. Jeremiah 23:1-4
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings. Psalm 17:1-2, 8-9

COLOMBIA: Women on the Frontlines of the Colombian Peace Movement

Last September, two graying fighters in the hemisphere’s longest-running armed conflict consented to an awkward handshake. Ernesto Londoño wrote in the New York Times that he watched Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleón Jiménez, alias “Timochenko,” head negotiator for the FARC, shake hands “in stunned silence,” astonished at the diplomatic successes of Colombia’s four years of peace talks. On the evening of October 2nd, international observers reacted once again in stunned silence—this time, however, because the prospects for peace were thwarted by an entirely unexpected outcome. The “Yes” vote lost by less than 1% in a surprise to most observers, who predicted that the referendum would pass. Subsequent analyses have cast the vote as Colombia’s Brexit, an electoral coup carried out by a disaffected anti-establishment voting bloc. 

The “No” campaign, however, was anything but anti-establishment. Though Colombians whose territories have suffered the most direct violence overwhelmingly voted to support the accords, the country’s white and mestizo Andean centers of power, where urban violence has been on the wane, carried the “No.” This seeming paradox, in addition to being a tragedy, illuminates the fact that Colombia’s conflict is no longer—  if it ever was— a conflict between the state and the guerrilla as much as it is a conflict between elites and the popular sector. Chief among those who stand to lose if the hard-won peace accords are discarded—and chief among those who fought hardest for them to happen in the first place—are women.

Women peace activists played key roles in the Havana negotiations, both in the talks’ preparatory years and in their execution. Networks of women’s and feminist organizations like Ruta Pacífica (Peaceful Path), the Organización Femenina Popular (Popular Women’s Organization), and other members of the Movimiento Social de Mujeres Contra la Guerra (Social Movement of Women Against War) had been demanding a negotiated solution for two decades, softening the ground for the Havana talks. Once they were announced, women lost no time in advocating for civil society to have a place at the table, and organized several parallel events to amplify women’s voices. When civil society was initially excluded, women organized parallel summits and roundtables, gathering proposals to be delivered to Havana. They held “cortes de mujeres,” public hearings designed as spaces for crimes committed against women in wartime to be made visible. And they traveled the country and collected women’s testimonies of violence to be published in Colombia’s Truth and Memory Commission report, a key tool in any campaign for a peace with justice.